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A crowd estimated variously at 30,000 to 100,000 gathered at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., yesterday for what was billed as “the largest march in U.S. history to defend the Palestinian people.”
The event, advertised as a march against “war and racism,” was billed as an answer to the reported 100,000-strong rally in support of Israel Monday at the Capitol, during which speakers linked the U.S. war on terror to Israel’s offensive against the Palestinians.
And although the pro-Israel demonstration featured remarks from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush administration was not represented at Saturday’s rally.
The central theme was support for Palestine and an unequivocal denunciation of Israel – and of American support for the Jewish state. Repeated throughout the event were calls for America to withdraw all financial support from Israel. “America first. Israel last!” was the cry.
Those in attendance were led in chants of “Long live Palestine! Long live the intifada!” and “We don’t care what you say! Intifada all the way!”
Protesters with mock Israeli flags had replaced the Star of David with a blue swastika. Some posters showed the Star of David as equal to a swastika. Hot language of political propaganda and persuasion dominated the scene, as speaker after speaker used loaded words like “holocaust,” “genocide,” “Nazis,” “terrorists,” “evil,” “Nuremberg trials” and “Adolf Hitler” to characterize the Israeli government.
During no segment covered by WND was there any reference to, denunciation of, or apology made for Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
The event was emceed by Mahdi Bray, the national political director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Bray invoked the name of the “most gracious Allah,” and said: “aiding and abetting Israel to kill Palestinian children is wrong. This is wrong America.” Bray announced he had weighed America in the “balance” of the Koran, and found it wanting.
Evoking familiar verbal images from Martin Luther King’s speeches, Bray urged politicians to “Come off of the plantation Congress, and be a free Congress.”
Jennifer Wager of the IFCO Pastors for Peace group announced that “Youth are at the forefront of this movement,” as she introduced Peta Lindsay, an A.N.S.W.E.R. youth leader. Lindsay called for an immediate end to U.S. financial support for Israel, accusing America of “funding the slaughter of Palestinian people.” She compared the conflict with the colonization of countries and the enslavement of indigenous peoples.
Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Helen Caldicott told the crowd that America, Israel, Britain and a large portion of the Western world are the real “rogue nations.” It is a lie that North Korea has any missiles, she claimed, basing her logic on the fact that since there were people dying of starvation there, how could North Korea have any money for missiles? In addition, she said North Korea, Iraq and Iran are not “rogue nations.”
The symbol of the American rogue nation, she said, was the Washington Monument, which she defined as a “phallic symbol” representing the nation’s “missile envy.” Caldicott concluded her speech with the assertion that if America or Israel uses nuclear weapons, then “we will all be vaporized and our eyes will melt.”
Dr. Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, addressed the crowd as “friends of justice” and urged them to pressure the American government to abandon Israel.
“Today is a historic day indeed,” he said. “It is about we the people, not we the politicians. For too long our country has been misled, deceived.” He claimed the Palestinian people had been “oppressed, humiliated and discriminated against with the support of the American government,” and called for “courageous, fair-minded people” to act against the United States’ “blind support for Israel.”
Israel is the cause of America’s isolation, Awad claimed, making Israel a strategic liability, not an asset. He accused Israel of having “brutalized and assassinated” Palestinians and for having singled out the Palestinian people for destruction.
‘Rising up against Israel’
Magdy Mahmoud of the Metropolitan Muslim Federation said, “We are now rising up against Israel.” Referring to the Israeli army as “the Israeli terrorist army,” he added, “We are standing together against the face of Israeli terrorism.”
His words were followed by chants of: “Shame, Shame U.S.A!”
Sala Kahn referred to the “apartheid state of Israel” which “pollutes the waters from which we as a nation drink. … Do not send aid to Israel. They have enough,” he said, “We are here to defend America. Put America first and Israel last! … No more blood money!”
After boasting that the crowd was diverse and included Christians, Emcee Bray introduced Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church, whose delivery could only be described as screaming.
“We’re not only Arabs and Muslims here, we’re Latino, Latina, black, Christian …!” he shouted. He went on to list every type of person, except Jewish, concluding: “One thing we have in common, we’re all Palestinians.” He screamed for “No more blood money” to be sent to Israel.
The chanting resumed : “Will you decide? Justice or genocide?”
“God is greatest!” Bray said, “He’s allowed 50,000 to come!”
‘A people born of injustice’
Another speaker read from a poem describing Israel in disturbingly anti-Semitic terms: “A nation of people born of injustice … there are Jews among you that detest what you do … proud, arrogant, malicious and clever … aggressive you’ve been since the day you were born … Israel where will you be when the pages have dried on your history?”
Surprisingly, into this backdrop of Israeli flags adorned with swastikas, Bray introduced a group of “Orthodox Jewish brothers from New York.” A statement by the group was read, which included the following: “The world stands aghast as the atrocities committed in the West bank become known.” They referred to a “carefully conceived plan to drive Palestinians from home and land,” calling it “insane destruction and dispersal, the criminal agenda of Zionism.” In addition the statement mentioned “crimes done in the name of Judaism … a wicked lie.”
“America,” they said, “by helping Israel to stay in existence, you are helping to build anti-Semitism.” The Orthodox group called on America to “stop all support and assistance and aid to Israel” and to support “Palestinian statehood in the entire Holy Land.” A vague reference was made to this being an aid to usher in a Messianic-like era of peace. Again, there was no mention, condemnation nor mourning over Palestinian suicide assaults on Israelis.
Sami Al Arian, the Florida professor fired for aiding the terrorist group Hamas, was presented as something of a martyr, as he called for Americans to “Stop the holocaust in Palestine.” He contended that when Bush demanded that Sharon withdraw from occupied territories immediately, that Sharon had essentially given Bush “the finger.” So, Al Arian, argued, when Israel asks for five billion dollars in aid, “What should we give them?”
“The finger!” shouted back the crowd.
After more chants, the crowd was reminded that “Allah fights through those who are his.”
“We must make life miserable for them.”
Vernon Bellecourt of the American Indian Movement accused the U.S., the C.I.A. and Israel of conspiring in a Guatemalan genocide. As he spoke, Bellecourt was closely ringed by persons, chanting softly, burning herbs and rattling small instruments. Finally he couldn’t hear himself above the noise, so he called an end to the chanting and rattling.
Boasting of a 1991 meeting with Yasser Arafat, at which the two embraced, Bellecourt recalled how he told the leader, “We are the Palestinians. … The Palestinians are we.” He accused the U.S. and Israel of carrying out genocide against the Palestinians. Bellecourt referred to elected officials as “these snakes on the hill” and, referring to the Israeli embassy, said: “We must confront them here in America. We must make life miserable for them. Israel out of Palestine! Israel out of the U.S.!”
CAIR’s Awad said, “The tremendous success of the rally shows that elected officials who offer blind support for Israel’s brutal policies are out of step with their constituents. Today marks the beginning of a national broad-based coalition that will seek to put America’s interests before those of a foreign government engaged in an apartheid-like occupation of another people.”
A Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, CAIR called on all those at the rally to “contact their elected representatives and demand an end to billions of American tax dollars being sent to Israel and an international investigation of the Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Jenin refugee camp.”